The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: The Waiting Game Begins - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The Derby Bubble Presented By Kentucky-Breds: The Waiting Game Begins

The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner, which means it's time for detailed looks at the horses that could fill the starting gate with Andrew Champagne of Catena Media and The Saratogian's Pink Sheet.

Check back with the Paulick Report regularly for updated rankings that include news, notes, and opinions on the 3-year-olds that figure to take center stage.

All of the Kentucky Derby preps have officially been run. Saturday's Grade 3 Lexington was the final points-bearing race on the schedule, and it ensured one horse of a spot in this field (assuming the connections want it).

We're now simply waiting on the defections that come every year. With that in mind, here's the latest top 20 list, which is led by a very familiar face…

Kentucky-bred contenders will be highlighted in red, and will receive additional analysis into their breeders, broodmares, and auction histories. Pedigree notes are written by Joe Nevills.

#1: Forte

Forte passes Mage in deep stretch to win the Florida Derby (G1) under Irad Ortiz, Jr., to collect his sixth win in seven lifetime starts.

Pedigree: Violence – Queen Caroline (by Blame)

Owner: Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: South Gate Farm (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 190

Let me get this straight. Last year's champion 2-year-old male breaks from post #11 at Gulfstream, where horses breaking from post #11 going 1 1/8 miles may as well be starting in Pete Aiello's announcer's booth, in the G1 Florida Derby. He takes dirt the whole way around, gives Mage (a good horse) a two-length head start turning for home, wins anyway to earn his fourth Grade 1 win at a third different track…and according to some in the game, I'm supposed to think his status at the top of this list should be threatened? Nope. To me, Forte is the clear frontrunner in this division heading into the Kentucky Derby, as he has been since last fall.

Forte was bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, out of the multiple stakes-winning Blame mare Queen Caroline. He sold for $110,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Amy Moore of South Gate Farm bought Queen Caroline as a yearling for $170,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September sale.

#2: Tapit Trice

Luis Saez guides Tapit Trice to a hard-fought victory over Verifying in the G1 Blue Grass

Pedigree: Tapit – Danzatrice (by Dunkirk)

Owner: Whisper Hill Farm, Gainesway Stable

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 150

Tapit Trice passed a significant test in the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Breaking from the rail with a history of gate issues and a running style that indicates he needs to be urged hard to stay engaged, there were red flags. However, beneath a brilliant ride from Luis Saez, the second Pletcher trainee in a row on this list ran down perfect-trip runner-up Verifying and likely stamped himself as the Derby's second choice behind his stablemate.

Tapit Trice was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd., out of the Grade 3-placed multiple stakes-winning Dunkirk mare Danzatrice. Tapit Trice sold to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for $1.3 million at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. A half-sister to champion Jaywalk, Danzatrice was a $105,000 purchase by Gainesway at the 2014 OBS Spring 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

#3: Angel of Empire

Angel of Empire following his win in the Arkansas Derby

Pedigree: Classic Empire – Armony's Angel (by To Honor and Serve)

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Forgotten Land Investment Inc & Black Diamond Equine Corp. (PA)

Kentucky Derby points: 154

Angel of Empire ran very, very well in the G1 Arkansas Derby. He never looked like a loser at any point, as he rated off a pace that, despite not looking too fast, didn't hold up once the field turned for home. He did a lot of things right at Oaklawn, and he goes into the Derby with two straight high-profile graded stakes wins (having also won the G2 Risen Star earlier this season).

#4: Practical Move

Practical Move and jockey Ramon Vazquez win the Grade II $400,000 San Felipe Stakes Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.

Pedigree: Practical Joke – Ack Naughty (by Afleet Alex)

Owner: Amestoy, Amestoy, and Beasley

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Chad Brown & Head of Plains Partners (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 160

Practical Move earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in taking the G1 Santa Anita Derby. He did what he had to do to keep his spot as the West Coast's top Kentucky Derby threat, but I saw a few things I wasn't crazy about. For the second straight race, he sat a picture-perfect trip, and this time, the wire came just before he could be reeled in. I do not have doubts about his ability, but I can't say the same about my feelings on if he can get the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby trip.

Practical Move was bred in Kentucky by Chad Brown and Head of Plains Partners, out of the stakes-placed Afleet Alex mare Ack Naughty. He sold to his current ownership for $230,000 at the 2022 OBS Spring sale. Ack Naughty was recently sold, pregnant to Upstart, to Chester and Mary Broman for $500,000 at this year's Keeneland January sale.

#5: Derma Sotogake

UAE Derby winner Derma Sotogake at Churchill Downs

Pedigree: Mind Your Biscuits – Amour Poesie (by Neo Universe)

Owner: Hiroyuki Asanuma

Trainer: Hidetaka Otonashi

Breeder: Shadai Farm (JPN)

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Derma Sotogake turned heads with his easy score in the G2 UAE Derby. However, when Mandarin Hero, considered a second-tier Japanese horse by some, ran a fantastic second to Practical Move at Santa Anita, it spurred a re-evaluation of the Japanese contingent. If a horse from Japan's “lower-level” circuit can run that well against a legitimate Derby prospect, what does it say about a horse that's more highly-regarded in the land of the rising sun?

#6: Kingsbarns

Flavien Prat guides Kingsbarns to a front-running Louisiana Derby triumph

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit (by Tapit)

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Breeder: Parks Investment Group, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Kingsbarns never looked like a loser in the G2 Louisiana Derby. He was part of a very slow pace and had plenty left turning for home. It wasn't the fastest Louisiana Derby on record, and a number of closers didn't fire (possibly due to the race shape more than anything else), but Kingsbarns passed his first significant test. In addition, his win going 1 3/16 miles indicates that, if he doesn't run well in Kentucky, it won't be because of that race's 1 1/4-mile distance.

Kingsbarns was bred in Kentucky by Parks Investment Group, out of the Grade 3-placed Tapit mare Lady Tapit, who is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Gozzip Girl. After bringing $250,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, the colt sold to Spendthrift Farm for $800,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Select 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

#7: Mage

Mage breaks his maiden at first asking at Gulfstream Park

Pedigree: Good Magic – Puca (by Big Brown)

Owner: OGMA Investments, Restrepo, Sterling Racing, and CMNWLTH

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Breeder: Grandview Equine (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Mage made a significant move up after running big to be second in the Florida Derby. He didn't break well, but he made an eye-catching move into contention going around the far turn before being run down by the top horse on this list. This is twice in as many two-turn starts that he's found some trouble, which isn't the best thing, but on the other hand, he's inexperienced enough to where he may still be learning and developing. Either way, he showed plenty last time out.

Mage was bred in Kentucky by Grandview Equine, out of the Grade 1-placed stakes-winning Big Brown mare Puca. He brought $235,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale, then he sold for $290,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Puca sold to Grandview Equine, pregnant to Gun Runner, for $475,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

#8: Verifying

Justify colt Verifying, ridden by Martin Garcia, captures an Oaklawn allowance in 2023 debut

Pedigree: Justify – Diva Delite (by Repent)

Owner: Westerberg, Magnier, Poulin, Smith and Tabor

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Hunter Valley & Mountmellick Farm, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Verifying had a nightmare trip in the G2 Rebel, when he was fourth behind Confidence Game. His journey was much easier in the Blue Grass, when he used his tactical speed to sit in a perfect spot most of the way. He and Tapit Trice were well, well clear of the rest of that field, and in finishing a close-up second, this colt gives the Cox barn yet another Derby contender.

Verifying was bred in Kentucky by Hunter Valley and Mountmellick Farm, out of the Grade 3-winning Repent mare Diva Delite, making him a half-brother to champion Midnight Bisou. He sold to M.V. Magnier of the Coolmore partnership for $775,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. The breeders purchased Diva Delite for $1.2 million, with Verifying in-utero, at the 2019 Keeneland November sale.

#9: Confidence Game

Confidence Game, James Graham aboard, following his Rebel Stakes victory

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Eblouissante (by Bernardini)

Owner: Don't Tell My Wife Stables

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Breeder: Summer Wind Equine LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 57

Confidence Game rallied from fifth to win the G2 Rebel at a price, and there are reasons to be enthusiastic. He won that race the right way and defeated what seemed like a pretty solid group. Two big questions, though: Was it early-season development that moved him forward, or was it the sloppy track he's bred up and down to absolutely love? Also, how comfortable are you betting on a horse that put forth a big effort in February, yet hasn't raced since?

Confidence Game was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Equine, out of the winning Bernardini mare Eblouissante. Desormeaux signed the ticket on Confidence Game for $25,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale. Eblouissante, a half-sister to Hall of Famer Zenyatta, was purchased by Summer Wind Farm for $1,434,279, pregnant to Dansili, at the 2016 Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

#10: Two Phil's

Jareth Loveberry celebrates aboard Two Phil's after winning the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.

Pedigree: Hard Spun – Mia Torri (by General Quarters)

Owner: Patricia's Hope, Phillip Sagan

Trainer: Larry Rivelli

Breeder: Phillip Sagan (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 123

When Jareth Loveberry rode for Rivelli last month, he KNEW he was live (yes, we're still referencing the greatest commercial in horse racing history). Two Phil's dominated in the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park and earned some pretty big speed figures (especially compared to the rest of his crop). If they were running the Kentucky Derby over that synthetic track, I'd have him much, much higher on this list. The question is, can he replicate that race on dirt? To run with the likes of Forte, Tapit Trice, and Angel of Empire, he may have to do just that.

Two Phil's was bred in Kentucky by Phillip Sagan, out of the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning General Quarters mare Mia Torri, who Sagan acquired privately during her on-track career.

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#11: Lord Miles

Curlin colt Lord Miles, outside, under Paco Lopez, gets his nose in front of favorite Hit Show to win the G2 Wood Memorial at 59-1 odds

Pedigree: Curlin – Lady Esme (by Majestic Warrior)

Owner: Vegso Racing Stable

Trainer: Saffie Joseph, Jr.

Breeder: Vegso Racing Stable (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Lord Miles entered the Andrew Champagne Gambling Hall of Fame when he won the G2 Wood Memorial at odds of 59-1. That race came after clunkers in both the G3 Holy Bull and the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, but he capitalized on some class relief and won despite a bit of a wide trip. Despite his well-deserved spot in my heart, though, my brain tells me that class relief will be gone come Kentucky Derby time. Still, he's better than the two clunkers he ran earlier this season, and he showed that on Saturday afternoon.

Lord Miles is a Kentucky homebred for Vesgo Racing Stable, out of the unraced Majestic Warrior mare Lady Esme, who is herself a Vesgo homebred. His second dam, Come a Callin was also bred and raced by Vesgo. The breeder bought into the family with the third dam, the unraced Twilight Service, who he purchased for $105,000 at the 2004 OBS March Sale.

#12: Hit Show

Candy Ride colt Hit Show, ridden by Manny Franco, captures the Withers

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Actress (by Tapit)

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Trainer: Brad Cox

Breeder: Gary & Mary West Stables Inc. (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Hit Show didn't have things easy when he broke from post #13 in the Wood, was wide throughout, and then wound up between horses throughout the stretch run. He couldn't hold off Lord Miles, but he did finish second. If you liked him as a Derby prospect before the Wood, you're certainly going to get better odds now that he didn't win his final prep race, and it's not like he ran terribly enough to scare someone off who saw something they liked when he won the G3 Withers earlier this year.

Hit Show was bred in Kentucky by Gary & Mary West Stables Inc., out of the Tapit mare Actress, who was herself a Grade 2 winner as a homebred for the Wests. 

#13: Disarm

Disarm at Churchill Downs

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Easy Tap (by Tapit)

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Breeder: Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 46

Disarm was a distant third in Saturday's Lexington, but that was enough to get him into the Derby field. Those six points allow him to sneak in, and that's music to the ears of those who liked his second-place finish behind Kingsbarns in the Louisiana Derby. Supporters probably hoped he would've finished closer to the top two last weekend, and that's why he's down a few spots, but in fairness, it's tough to close ground at Keeneland's 1 1/16-mile configuration (which features a very short stretch).

Disarm was bred in Kentucky by Winchell Thoroughbreds, out of the winning Tapit mare Easy Tap, who is also the dam of Venezuelan champion Tap Daddy. The Winchell operation purchased Easy Tap for $300,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale.

#14: Reincarnate

Reincarnate and jockey Juan Hernandez win the G3 Sham

Pedigree: Good Magic – Allanah (by Scat Daddy)

Owner: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, et al

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Breeder: Woods Edge Farm, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 45

A photo for third place in the Arkansas Derby saw Reincarnate edge Rocket Can. In doing so, the gray likely earned enough Derby points to ensure a spot in this year's field (a fourth-place finish would've put him in a precarious spot). Prior to that effort, Reincarnate won the G3 Sham at Santa Anita while in the barn of Bob Baffert before running third in the Rebel for Yakteen (where he earned the rest of his points).

Reincarnate was bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm, out of the stakes-winning Scat Daddy mare Allanah. He sold for $775,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Woods Edge Farm acquired Allanah, pregnant to Street Boss, for $105,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

#15: Raise Cain

Jose Lezcano guides Raise Cain to victory in the G3 Gotham

Pedigree: Violence – Lemon Belle (by Lemon Drop Kid)

Owner: Andrew and Rania Warren

Trainer: Ben Colebrook

Breeder: Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 64

Raise Cain romped to a 23-1 upset in the G3 Gotham and stepped up the class ladder in the Blue Grass. He was a well-beaten fifth, but one can argue he may have been third-best behind the runaway top pair. He was last of 10 early and got floated very, very wide turning for home. At a minimum, he showed two turns should not be what gets him beat, and if you're looking for a deep closer on Derby Day to potentially do a Rich Strike impression, perhaps this is one you can talk yourself into.

Raise Cain was bred in Kentucky by Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, out of the winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Belle. He sold for $180,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds acquired Lemon Belle, pregnant to Violence, for $285,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

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#16: Rocket Can

March 26, 2023: Rocket Can worked in company with stablemate Shadow Dragon at Payson Park for Bill Mott.

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Tension (by Tapit)

Owner: Frank Fletcher Racing

Trainer: Bill Mott

Breeder: Woodford Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Rocket Can won the G3 Holy Bull before running into Forte in the G2 Fountain of Youth. Owner Frank Fletcher is an Arkansas native, which played a role in this colt shipping to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby. It's not like he ran terribly to be fourth behind Angel of Empire, but if you were expecting a significant move forward, that's not what you got. Mott has shipped Rocket Can to Churchill, and this one has more than enough points to make the Derby field, but he added a decision on his status for that race has not been made.

Rocket Can was bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds LLC, out of the placed Tapit mare Tension. Woodford Thoroughbreds bought Tension pregnant to Curlin for $750,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale, and sold her at this year's Keeneland January sale.

#17: Continuar

Continuar at Churchill Downs

Pedigree: Drefong – Pan de Ring (by King Kamehameha)

Owner: Lion Race Horse Co.

Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi

Breeder: Lake Villa Farm (JPN)

Kentucky Derby points: Invitation

Continuar earned a spot in the field by way of Japan's Road to the Kentucky Derby, and his resume includes a win in the 2022 Cattleya Stakes. Since then, he's run fifth in Saudi Arabia and third in Dubai. Of the Japanese runners, Derma Sotogake appears more well-meant, but as we found out in the Santa Anita Derby, blindly dismissing runners from Japan may prove unwise.

#18: Blazing Sevens

Good Magic colt Blazing Sevens wins the G1 Champagne

Pedigree: Good Magic – Trophy Girl (by Warrior's Reward)

Owner: Rodeo Creek Racing

Trainer: Chad Brown

Breeder: Tracy Farmer (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 46

Blazing Sevens returns to this list after salvaging third in the Blue Grass. In doing so, he earned just enough Kentucky Derby points to ensure a spot in the field. Last year's winner of the G1 Champagne, however, hasn't shown he can stretch that form out to two turns quite yet. He's 2-for-3 around one turn, with the lone loss being a third-place finish in the G1 Hopeful. Going two turns, he's 0-for-3, and the third-place finish in the Blue Grass is his only in-the-money finish in those events.

Blazing Sevens was bred in Kentucky by Tracy Farmer, out of the winning Warrior's Reward mare Trophy Girl. After bringing $140,000 as a newly-turned yearling at the 2021 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, Blazing Sevens sold for $250,000 that summer at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Farmer acquired Trophy Girl as a weanling for $62,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

#19: Sun Thunder

Sun Thunder

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Greenfield d'Oro (by Medaglia d'Oro)

Owner: R T Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Breeder: Southern Equine Stables, LLC (KY)

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Sun Thunder sneaks back onto this list after a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass got him enough points to make the Derby field. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he's been a busy boy this year, having run in four prep races. Most notably, he was a close-up second behind Angel of Empire in the Risen Star back in February.

Sun Thunder was bred in Kentucky by Southern Equine Stables, out of the placed Medaglia d'Oro mare Greenfield d'Oro. He sold as a weanling for $400,000 at the 2020 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Greenfield d'Oro, a daughter of champion sprinter Maryfield, is a homebred for Southern Equine Stables.

#20: Wild On Ice

Ken Tohill guides Wild On Ice to an upset victory in the G3 Sunland Park Derby

Pedigree: Tapizar – Slamitagain (by Grand Slam)

Owner: Frank Sumpter

Trainer: Joel Marr

Breeder: Frank Sumpter (TX)

Kentucky Derby points: 50

We'll finish off the list with a late Triple Crown nominee. Wild On Ice pulled off a 35-1 shocker in the G3 Sunland Derby, and was supplemented to the prestigious series shortly after that effort. After a workout this week at Sunland Park, his connections opted to keep him on track for the Run for the Roses, and it's looking like 60-year-old regular rider Ken Tohill will become the oldest jockey in Kentucky Derby history.

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